Take a walk down SA cricket’s blooming memory lane

2011-12-17 16:10

Writer and broadcaster Neil Manthorp is a South African cricketing institution, having covered almost every post-isolation tour of the mighty Proteas.

And if there is one person who knows the travails of South African cricket, it is him.

The book, The Proteas: 20 Years, 20 Landmark Matches, chronicles two decades of South Africa in cricket since international admission in 1991 after the apartheid slumber.

It highlights 20 key matches that have contributed to the standing of our cricket.

I found the book to be thoroughly readable and informative. The 20 matches are spread between Tests and one-day internationals (ODIs).

Some of the highlights included is the sad – to South Africans at least – semifinal match of the 1999 World Cup in England and the “Greatest ODI match ever” – the March 2006 438-runs victory against the Aussies at the Wanderers’ Bull Ring.

In Tests, the writer takes the reader back to 1992 in Bridgetown, the West Indies.

In this memorable match, the Proteas came close to upsetting the then mighty Indies before “Hurricane Courtney and Curtly” – Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose – ended that dream.

It then goes on to the watershed four-wicket win against India in Mumbai in 2000, a Test win that gave the Proteas the muscle to clinch the series.

Interviews with the players who took part in these matches, along with Manthorp’s candid writing, his knowledge of individual players and the game itself, saves the book from being a Wisden Almanack carbon copy.

It also captures the atmosphere of the Proteas’ dressing room during the good and the bad times.

Personally, I feel the chastening defeats that are part and parcel of South African cricket and the lessons that were learned in their wake are missing from the book.

Losing, as much as winning, is part of the cricket game and there are landmark defeats, like the 360-run and innings loss to Australia in 2002. The 67-run defeat to England in 2005 and the excruciating one-wicket loss to Sri Lanka in 2006.

Even though the focus is on landmark matches, there is a comprehensive background to the series in which the matches occurred.

This could have been grist for the mill for a novice reader, and writer, providing some background to work with, in so doing ridding one of the need to trawl cricinfo.com’s vast Test match archive.

As South Africans have differing opinions about how games have panned out, also included are games that could have made it to the best 20.

These include Proteas’ 160-run win over Pakistan in Karachi city in 2007, which ended a seven-year series drought in Asia, and the 1996 New Year’s Test against England.

The latter, I fondly remember, made me fall in love with the game.

With the amount of cricket being played nowadays, an epic Test can easily get lost in the annals of history, but history is best recorded through books.

If you love circket, I suggest you add this epic work to your shelves

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